MSNBC's Roberts Offers Misleading History on Plame Affair in Interview with Former CIA Operative

"As we talk about history, today marks the 6-year anniversary that Scooter Libby was convicted of lying and obstructing in the leak investigation which led to your cover as a covert CIA operative being blown," MSNBC's Thomas Roberts noted at the close of his March 6 MSNBC Live interview with Valerie Plame. "We're getting word now that he has had his voting rights restored," the MSNBC anchor added. "How do you feel, as you look back, hindsight being 20/20, about what that moment in time did to your life, where you are today?"

Plame answered that she and her husband Joe Wilson "worked really hard to rebuild our lives" and that they "wish that there had been further repercussions," because, "The whole episode is just a small example of a larger pattern of behavior that we saw under the Bush administration." But alas, speaking of history, this short exchange was a bit misleading for viewers as it was Colin Powell confidante Richard Armitage who had leaked Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, albeit inadvertently. From CNN.com on September 8, 2006:


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage acknowledged Thursday that he was the source who first revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to syndicated columnist Robert Novak back in 2003, touching off a federal investigation.

Armitage told the CBS Evening News that he did so inadvertently.

"I feel terrible," Armitage said. "Every day, I think, I let down the president. I let down the secretary of state. I let down my department, my family, and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson."

In a column published on July 14, 2003, Novak, citing two senior administration officials, noted that Plame was a CIA operative. The column was primarily about Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, a former career diplomat and critic of the intelligence underlying the invasion of Iraq.

Novak has never revealed the original source of the information about Plame. However, he has confirmed that President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, confirmed the information and was the second source cited in the column.

Novak has said he would not reveal the identity of the original source unless the source came forward. However, he said Fitzgerald learned who the source was independently.

Last month, sources told CNN that Armitage had revealed Plame's role at the CIA in a casual conversation with Novak.

Armitage was not indicted by the federal grand jury that investigated the disclosure of Plame's name to Novak and other journalists. He told CBS that the special counsel investigating the leak, Patrick Fitzgerald, "asked me not to discuss this, and I honored his request."

Of course, Armitage was no booster of the Iraq War, which undercuts the whole faulty history that pins blame for the Plame outing on vindictive Bush administration war hawks.

As to Scooter Libby's trial, the matter of Plame's covert status was not an issue at all, according to NBC News producer Joel Seidman in a May 29, 2007 post (emphasis mine):

WASHINGTON — An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003.

The summary is part of an attachment to Fitzgerald's memorandum to the court supporting his recommendation that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former top aide, spend 2-1/2 to 3 years in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation.

The nature of Plame's CIA employment never came up in Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice trial.

[...]

Several administration officials, including Libby, former State Department official Richard Armitage and Bush advisor Karl Rove, disclosed Plame's identity to reporters.

No one was ever charged with the leak of Plame's name itself, which would have been a crime only if someone knowingly gave our information about someone covered by a specific law protecting the identities of covert agents.

Plame was on Roberts's program not primarily to discuss the Libby case but rather U.S. drone strike policy and her involvement with a group called Global Zero, an anti-nuclear weapon group. Suffice it to say, questions about the aims of her organization, Global Zero, were rather puffy, and Roberts failed to press Plame about the folly of U.S.nuclear disarmament.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters